A Stubborn Old Man’s Blunder
There was a stubborn old man who had frequent headaches that were extremely painful. He discovered that taking painkillers, for the most part, would numb the pain. He took the painkillers, and continued on with his life normally. Turns out, he had a brain tumor and it killed him. If he had gone to the doctor and learned about his real illness, the doctor would have applied a different remedy than simply painkillers. Instead, since he did not have an accurate diagnosis, he’s dead.
Tell Me Straight, Doc
When we answer the question, “What do I need to be saved from?” we put ourselves in the same place as the man with the tumor. If we look for salvation from the wrong problem, we will never be saved from our real problem! Let’s go to the physician, Jesus, to find out.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
We know that Jesus is talking about salvation, because he declares it outright: the Son did not come to condemn, but rather to save. The very next verse, Jesus explains that whoever believes in the Son of God is not condemned, but whoever does not believe in the Son is condemned already. These verses are connected to each other. Therefore we can see what Jesus is saving the world from: condemnation. Not only that, but we can see how he is doing it: through faith in Jesus.
If then, the world is under condemnation, two questions come up:
1) Who is condemning us?
2) Why are we under condemnation?
Who am I Condemned With?
We could take guesses and try to figure out who is condemning us on our own, or instead we could listen to the doctor and get an accurate diagnosis. It turns out that John the Baptist, speaking about Jesus elaborates later on in the chapter:
35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
The wrath of God remains on him. Remember verse 18? Jesus spoke that whoever did not believe in the Son was condemned already. It wasn’t something new, it was already there. Now we have verse 36. The wrath of God remains on him. Again, it wasn’t something new, but something old that remained; specifically, the wrath of God.
That answers the “who” question. It is God that condemns us.
Wait. I Thought God Loves Us…
He does. He loves us so much that he sent his Son to die on a cross so that whoever believes in him will not be condemned.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
This is true love. Normal people can have affectionate feelings for others, but only God’s love can pay the ultimate price for people who deserve God’s wrath. God’s love does not motivate him to ignore wrath, but rather to satisfy it.
Why is the World Condemned?
If someone were to fire a gun at me, it would be painful and it would kill me, but it would not be condemnation. If I were guilty of a crime and put before a firing squad, it would be condemnation. What is the difference if the consequences are the same? The first case is merely an event, while the second case is a judgment.
To be condemned means that a judgment has been made. In order for the world to be condemned by God, it must have been judged by God. We’d be on a roll if John 3 addressed this question too. Good news, it does:
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Ok. What is the judgment now? Jesus, the light, is rejected by the world because the world loves evil works and therefore hates Jesus when he causes their sins to be exposed. We not only have an evil works problem, but we have a love problem. The rejection of Jesus is a symptom of loving evil. All of this is worthy of condemnation.
Get Me Saved!
We have the diagnosis: the world needs to be saved from the condemnation of God that was earned by our own wicked works and rejection of Jesus. What is the solution?
13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
God sent fiery snakes as condemnation against the Israelites when they sinned. Upon repenting, God had them look to a bronze snake that he had Moses lift up and he removed his wrath from all who looked upon it. Likewise, Jesus was lifted up on a cross and died such that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.
Confess your sin and believe in the Son of God: Jesus, and your sins will be forgiven and the condemnation of God will not remain on you, but you will have everlasting life!